Rice to Tell Abbas: Don't Miss Opportunity, Impose Order

In meeting Thursday, Rice will pledge U.S. aid to strengthen Abbas, but will stress it expects results in return.

American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to tell Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at their meeting Thursday that he must increase his efforts to impose order in the Palestinian Authority, in order not to miss the opportunity to resume negotiations offered by the Gaza cease-fire and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's speech in Sde Boker on Monday, sources in Washington said Tuesday.

Rice will pledge U.S. aid in strengthening Abbas' position, the sources said, but will stress that the United States expects results from him in return.

Israeli officials said Washington understands that further progress depends on the success of the cease-fire, which took effect on Sunday.

Olmert, who said at Sde Boker that Israel is willing to release many prisoners in return for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, is to meet Wednesday with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to discuss the exchange.

As of Tuesday night, it was still unclear whether Rice would also travel to Jerusalem to meet with Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, or whether she would merely go to Jericho for a meeting with Abbas following her scheduled visit to Jordan. She was slated to make a final decision late Tuesday night.

Abbas, who met Tuesday with King Abdullah of Jordan, said after the meeting that he was encouraged by Olmert's Sde Boker speech, in which the prime minister spoke of negotiating a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, and particularly by Olmert's favorable reference to the peace plan proposed by the Arab League in 2002.

But members of Olmert's staff told foreign diplomats on Tuesday that the prime minister is opposed to beginning final-status negotiations with Abbas unless the PA government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

These are the three conditions set by the Quartet (the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia) for recognition of the PA government.

The staffers stressed that the prime minister's speech at Sde Boker did not imply that he was backtracking on his previous insistence that the Quartet's demands be met. Israel, they said, would not accept any compromises on these conditions.

They also said that Olmert has no intention of skipping the second stage of the road map peace plan, which calls for a Palestinian state in temporary borders, unless and until the PA complies fully with its obligations under the plan's first stage - namely, eradicating the terrorist infrastructure.

Government officials consequently expressed satisfaction with the report they received from White House envoy Elliott Abrams, who arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday after a visit to Europe.

Abrams told Olmert that the EU leaders promised him that any diplomatic initiative in the Middle East would be coordinated in advance with the United States, and that a plan for reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks that was recently unveiled by Spain, France and Italy would not be promoted without America's consent.